Meet our expert, resident Trip Leaders
Vu Nguyen Van
With OAT since 2005
99% of travelers rated their experience with Vu excellent
"Vu was fantastic in every aspect of what rates an OAT Trip Leader as exceptional. His English vocabulary is immense; his knowledge of his country’s history, politics, economy, and culture is enormous; his personality engaging, funny, and always upbeat; and he's considerate of his guests!"
–Warren Balkcom, 12-time traveler, Washington, D.C.
Born in: Cu Chi, Vietnam
Resides in: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Languages: English, Vietnamese
Hobbies & Interests: Tennis, gardening, cooking, reading
Get to know Vu:
I grew up in a small village in a very difficult economic situation. Vietnam is growing up fast. Everything is changing, and gets better by the day. We are trying to learn and work hard to catch up to the new era of the country, so I always do the same to achieve this goal in life.
I’ve been working in this field since 1994 and love it with my full passion and caring. I travel to experience new destinations and open my mind. I like to show my beautiful country to our travelers, too. I love my country’s traditional culture and our history, even the difficult parts.
I want our travelers to interact with the local people. You will understand deeper about the destination when you have a chance to interact and experience it with the locals. On a past tour, one of my travelers—a Vietnam War vet—asked to visit a local village nearby My Son valley. When we arrived, a family had gathered in remembrance of a member who died during the war. The traveler revealed that he had flown bombing missions in this area, and was very saddened to witness the results. The villagers welcomed us with big smiles on their faces, and an old woman came up and shook his hand saying, “Welcome back! Don’t worry! We are friends now … Come and drink with us to celebrate a peaceful Vietnam.”
Vu’s Insider Tips:
Unique Food & Drink:
The Bale Well food stall in Hoi An (45/17 Tran Hung Dao St.) is a small family food stall with famous local dishes, including banh xeo (Vietnamese pancakes), ram cuon (spring rolls), and grilled pork on a bamboo stick. Locals love this place with its famous Bale well that dates back to Cham times (before the 14th century). You can sit on a small plastic chair to enjoy your food and interact with the owner, Mrs. Be. It is very inexpensive.
Photo courtesy of Takao Chiba.
Hidden Gems & Highlights:
Café Tuan is a small coffee shop located on the rooftop of an old-style house in Hanoi. From the top, you can enjoy a very peaceful side of Hanoi, and get a great view of the Old Quarter and central Hoan Kiem Lake. To get here, head to 11 Hang Gai Street, and enter a very small alley to go through the shop. Here, you’ll reach a big house. Follow the stairs up to the top of the house. It’s a great place to interact with Hanoians.
Special Places & Pastimes:
The Van Thanh Park (48/10 Dien Bien Phu Street) in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is located in the center of Saigon. It is a countryside park with its beautiful bonsai trees, old traditional houses, and cultural activities. It’s a nice place to walk, relax, and enjoy a peaceful, countryside view in the center of the big, busy city. You can see many locals come here for picnics and fishing.
Photo courtesy of Eustaquio Santimano.